Young Church-Service Missionaries Find Joy in Service
By Carolyn Carter, Church News and Events
Like the 55,410 proselyting missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the globe, Elder Ernesto Sarabia wore a black missionary badge each day of his mission. But in some ways his mission assignment was unique from many others’—Elder Sarabia served as a young Church-service missionary.
For medical reasons, Elder Sarabia was unable to serve a full-time proselyting mission. For a year he insisted on going, and submitted his papers multiple times. But each time the answer was the same.
“We recognize that it may not be wise for some of our young men and young women to face the rigors and challenges of a full-time mission,” Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said. But this, he said, does not mean they can’t participate in the blessings of missionary service. He continued, “If priesthood leaders excuse any of you from full-time missionary service, we ask you and your families to accept the decision and move forward. You can prepare to participate in the saving ordinances of the temple and find other ways to be of service.”
And this is just what Elder Sarabia did.
After explaining his desire to serve to area authorities, Elder Sarabia learned about the young Church-service missionary (YCSM) program. As a YCSM, Elder Sarabia was assigned to be a mission office assistant in the Mexico Hermosillo Mission office.
For young sisters and brethren who, for physical, mental, or emotional reasons are honorably excused from serving full-time proselyting missions, or for those who must return home early from their proselyting assignments because of similar difficulties, the YCSM program provides mission experiences that build faith, strengthen testimonies, and enhance personal skills and abilities through meaningful service to others and to the Church. Currently there are 22,299 Church-service missionaries, hundreds of whom are YCSMs.
Requirements to Serve
Just as full-time missionaries must be physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally able to proselyte, young Church-service missionaries must be physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally able to perform the duties of the calling to which they are assigned. For instance, they must be worthy to hold a temple recommend.
Careful attention is given to matching YCSMs with their assignments.
Prior to his call to serve as a YCSM in the Hong Kong Distribution Center and area offices, Elder Michael Hillam had often talked with his parents about wanting to serve a mission. Both his brother and sister served missions, but for medical reasons Elder Hillam was unable to serve as a full-time missionary.
However, with help from his branch president, the Area President, and the Asia director of temporal affairs, Elder Hillam and his family were able to find a YCSM assignment suited to his abilities. In the Hong Kong Distribution Center, Elder Hillam packs Church supply orders for Hong Kong, India, and other countries. He packages Church magazines and helps open and unpack boxes of supplies. He also works in the Church’s regional office mailroom, cleans offices, and delivers packages.
YCSM opportunities accommodate a range of abilities and personal needs. Assignments vary from 6 to 24 months. Some missionaries serve a couple of days a week while others are assigned to work 40 hours per week, depending on the missionary’s abilities. Potential YCSM assignments include:
- Family history research
- FamilySearch support
- Information technology
- Distribution center assistants
- Mission office assistants and support
- Facilities management
- Seminaries and institutes
- Bishops’ storehouses
- Deseret Industries
- Employment resource centers
While most YCSMs live at home and serve locally, there are also many opportunities to serve right from home, with a computer and fast Internet connection.
Family and Priesthood Support
Parents, priesthood leaders, and Church members can help potential YCSMs prepare to serve missions.
Sister Eliza Joy Young’s family has been a strong support for her on her Church-service mission in the Church offices in Sydney, Australia. In fact, it was while her brother was serving a mission in Brisbane that she decided that she too wanted to do more for Heavenly Father by serving a mission.
“Mum and Dad were very supportive of my decision to serve,” she said. “They helped me to understand what a service missionary did and that I could stay at home [while serving]. … Mum and my sister take me to and from the office.”
Elder Hillam expressed a similar sentiment: “My early morning seminary teachers and Young Men leaders helped me prepare,” he said. “The young men and women in [my] branch were all my friends and were excited for me when I got my mission call.”
Sacrifice Brings Spiritual Blessings
Choosing to serve a Church-service mission will require sacrifice. But with those sacrifices come great blessings.
Sister Young sacrificed her days off from her part-time job to serve a Church-service mission. She said that despite how difficult it was to change her routine to serve a mission, she has seen significant blessings from serving. Primarily, she said, her mission strengthened her relationship with Heavenly Father. “I feel closer to my Heavenly Father knowing I am helping Him,” she said. “It is very much worth the changes.”
For Elder Hillam, the blessings have been similar. His father, Brad Hillam, said, “Serving a mission has brought great joy to our son. He feels fulfilled. He has purpose. He is a young man of great faith who knows his Father in Heaven and Savior love him.”
Brother Hillam explained that not only has his family been blessed for Elder Hillam’s service, but that all those who come in contact with Elder Hillam are blessed too.
In Mexico, Elder Sarabia has also seen the blessings of his service reach beyond himself. “My job in the office was to help the elders who were assistants to the president and the other secretaries so that they could dedicate more time in the field,” he said. “While I helped in the office, the elders … would focus more on the people to whom they were preaching, and that way they could baptize all those souls.”
He remarked that even though he wasn’t the one who preached the gospel directly to those who were baptized, he helped make it possible for those who did preach to them.
Opportunities for Growth
In addition to these spiritual blessings, serving a Church-service mission gives young missionaries valuable social and professional opportunities. Sister Young said working in the Church offices in Sydney has helped her friendship base grow. “The people I work with have been very accepting of my disabilities and made my time with them really enjoyable,” she said. “I have been blessed with meeting people that I would not have had the opportunity to meet without serving my mission.”
She also noted, “My mission has shown me that I am able to work in open employment.” (She had previously only worked in assisted employment.) She says this has given her confidence in herself and in her skills.
Joy in the Blessings of the Lord
Though not all young adults who would like to serve as Church-service missionaries may be able to, every effort is made to accommodate every worthy young adult. Young men and women who believe they might qualify and would like to serve in this way can talk to their bishop or branch president who, through the help of Church-service missionary coordinators, can find appropriate YCSM opportunities for them.
Through these opportunities, young Church-service missionaries around the world find joy in serving. Elder Hillam said he loves wearing his suit and missionary badge. “I am very proud to be a missionary,” he said. “I shake people’s hands on the sidewalk. … I get to bear my testimony, and I know God is proud of me and [that] I am doing what He wants me to do.”
“I would encourage [prospective YCSMs] to serve a service mission because it helps you become closer to your Heavenly Father,” Sister Young concluded. “It also helps us understand our worth in the Lord’s plan. We also are given the opportunity to touch the lives of others.”
And to those preparing to serve as a young Church-service missionary, Elder Sarabia said, “I exhort them to prepare themselves for the best days of their lives and to have joy in the blessings of the Lord.”